Skip to main content

Northern Ireland: National Security Intelligence Work

Volume 669: debated on Thursday 24 February 2005

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:The Government have been considering for a lengthy period how best to take forward one aspect of the modernisation agenda of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The announcement being made today reflects the enormous progress that has already been made in implementing the recommendations of the Patten Commission.Patten acknowledged that whatever changes were necessary in the policing arrangements for Northern Ireland it would remain the case that national security was a matter for central government, as is the case in the rest of the United Kingdom. The Government have consistently subscribed to that view. The very serious threat from international terrorism which has developed over recent years has reinforced that conclusion.Against that background it seems to the Government appropriate to announce their intention that the Security Service will assume for Northern Ireland the lead responsibility it has had for national security intelligence work since 1992 in Great Britain.Such change will in no way diminish the role of the PSNI in intelligence gathering in areas other than national security, nor of course in mounting executive policing operations, making arrests and taking forward prosecutions.Looking to the future, such a change will facilitate the devolution of justice and policing when a robust and workable basis for that is agreed, taking account of the fact that national security is an excepted matter for which the Secretary of State must remain responsible. In the mean time there are important benefits in bringing the arrangements for national security into line with the rest of the UK so as to provide for a consistent and co-ordinated response to international terrorism. Sharing of intelligence on a cross-border and international basis will be particularly important in combating money-laundering and other aspects of organised crime.The PSNI and the Security Service will continue to work together in partnership, making best use of their complementary skills and expertise. The PSNI will, as now, provide the operational police response in countering terrorism and in protecting the whole community in Northern Ireland.

The powers and responsibilities of the policing board, the police ombudsman and the oversight commissioner to oversee policing are not affected by this change.

We intend that the new arrangements, together with associated safeguards, will be fully operational during 2007. This timetable reflects the need for detailed planning and implementation.